Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden will head to the opening grand prix of the 2005 season, at Jerez on April 10, boosted by having set the pace in the final three-day pre-season test session - held at the same circuit.
Here Nicky - about to start his third year of MotoGP competition - evaluates his pre-season preparations, considers the title contenders, talks about the latest version of the RC211V, his hopes for the Spanish GP and much more...
In general terms, how would you assess your pre-season?
It's been quite a long pre-season and I'm happy that it's finished. It's been fun, but long. I'm ready to start the championship and to do what really counts. The real everyday work during the races is always much more entertaining for all of us.
The pre-season is hard; everything has to be restarted, the bike, the mechanics, the rider... But I'm really satisfied with how things have worked out. We've been improving day after day and we've been in the front in every test.
It was a new team when we started, but now we understand each other very well and the atmosphere in the garage is very good. The assessment is positive but it's time to go for the results.
How do you see your main rivals, such as Rossi, Gibernau and Biaggi?
Valentino is without doubt the man to beat, that's why he's number one. From a sporting point of view, Rossi will be the number one enemy until any other rider makes a big step forward.
None of us has made that big step so far, but there are several riders that seem to be very strong. Sete, for example, is in exceptional shape and he's mentally on a good level as well. Valentino will be the hardest rival and then Sete. There are some races where Max can do a good job too and be a tough rival.
Not to fight for the title. But there are some riders and teams that have improved a lot. The championship is going to be great fun.
How do you see the Honda compared to the Yamaha?
From my point of view, the Honda is good overall, it's a complete bike, but the Yamaha is also a great machine. There are obviously differences; different riders, different parts...